THERE ARE nights at North Philly's Franchise Sports Bar when the whole neighborhood knows that it's last call. They just listen for the sound of trouble.
This weekend, it was gunfire.
Four men were shot near the bar about 2:30 a.m. yesterday - including a 26-year-old cop who caught a bullet in his shoulder.
Officer Ashley Hoggard, of the 39th Police District, and his partner heard the blasts and responded on foot to the area of Broad and Somerset streets, where they encountered a gunman in a white tank top, police said.
Hoggard was shot while standing between two vehicles. He was rushed to Temple University Hospital, where he was upgraded yesterday from stable to good condition.
The bullet "went in and did some damage, but where it settled was in some soft tissue," said Lt. Frank Vanore, a police spokesman. "He was very lucky."
An officer for three years, Hoggard was wearing body armor, but that doesn't protect the shoulder area, where the bullet remained lodged. Neither officer discharged a weapon.
"I don't think they ever had the opportunity to," Vanore said.
Antonio Lewis, who lives on nearby Seltzer Street, said that he heard perhaps 15 shots, with a pause in between, "like somebody was reloading." Unfortunately, he said, that sound is "not uncommon at all" in his neighborhood, where he occasionally finds bullet shells on the street.
The three other men, all in their 30s, who were shot were listed in stable condition yesterday. One man was wounded in the upper leg, another man was shot in his right arm and a third man was struck in his left hip and both arms, Vanore said.
Police found a gun behind a house on Somerset Street, but it was unclear yesterday if all the shots had come from that weapon, or if more than one shooter was involved.
"A long time ago, people wouldn't think of doing something like this," said Lewis, 65, a retired steelworker. "Everyone wants respect for this or that. Go get a job and maybe you'll get some respect. I don't know if it's from too much movies or TV, but everybody thinks they're bad."
Hoggard's partner drove him to the hospital, where relatives and other officers from the 39th District quickly gathered.
The gunman, who escaped, is described as a bearded black man in his mid-20s to mid-30s last seen wearing a white tank top, "firing the handgun as he was running east on Somerset," Vanore said.
"It's frightening, the level of violence we're facing," Vanore said. "People are just squeezing off the trigger like they can hit the reset button and start over again."
Seven Philadelphia police officers have been killed in the line of duty since 2006 - five at the hands of a gunman.
Each police shooting raises the inevitable question of whether stricter gun laws are needed in the city.
But George McCurdy, pastor of Greater Love Temple of Faith Church, said that the solution probably isn't that simple.
Yesterday's police investigation had temporarily blocked McCurdy from getting to his church on Somerset Street, where free breakfast is distributed and children attend Sunday school before the weekly services.
"Sometimes, it's not the gun - it's the hand that holds the gun," said McCurdy, as members of his congregation waited near the crime-scene tape in their Sunday whites. "It's a deep-rooted problem that stems back to before people become adults. If you're not careful, the environment will suck you in and you'll think that is the way to live."
"We're just glad no one got killed," said his wife, Dianne.
Not this time, at least.
In November 2007, Debbie Johnson lost her ex-boyfriend, Khyree Nixon, 25, and his cousin to violence outside the Franchise Sports Bar. Both were fatally shot at about 2 a.m. Also injured in that incident were a 26-year-old woman who was shot in the leg and a 21-year-old man who was shot five times in the arms and legs.
Johnson said that gun-toting criminals seem to think nothing of pulling the trigger at the sight of a cop.
"Before, they respected them; now, there's no respect for the police," said Johnson, 37, who lives on Seltzer near Broad, and said that she had heard an argument before yesterday's gunfire.
The bar is calm most days of the week, Johnson and other residents acknowledged, but "on the weekends it gets out of hand," she said.
"They should shut that bar down immediately!" neighbor Lisa Jackson said. When the shots rang out, she said, "My sister had to grab her child and hit the floor."
Vanore said that it is not yet clear if the gunman or the victims were inside the bar before the shooting, but that investigators were reviewing surveillance tapes.
"We're not a nuisance bar," said Franchise bartender Tina Wiggins. "It happens outside. There's nothing we can do. We don't have no trouble in here."
The bar's owner could not be reached yesterday.
Meanwhile, Broad Street between Lehigh and Glenwood avenues was taped off as police searched for bullet casings, blood marks and other clues that could help them reconstruct the incident. The three victims were being interviewed in the hospital, Vanore said.
"We need to kind of know where everybody was when everything was happening," he said.